There's a Meaning to Silence

Baraka (1992) is the first documentary I saw without any dialogue. It's a kind of visual experience that anyone from across the globe could understand. Throughout this film, the editing conveys a powerful message about humankind. For me, there was one scene that struck a nerve in me. It was during the sequence of the screaming Geisha. This scene was in my face and made me uncomfortable and I realized why. 

    I've lived in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco for over two years now and in that time I've met an array of interesting individuals. From Duane "the dog" who posts up on Eddy and Larkin selling used C.D.s and planter pots in front of PG&E to Jamie Otis who crossdresses in sequent clothing and vibrant wigs waiting for the Muni transportation to arrive. But most don't appear as friendly as others and make me wish I were walking on the other side of the street out of safety. Although there are many people of the Loin I don't interact with doesnt mean I don't notice them. 

    There is one woman I see. She walks through the streets. Her hair is long, black and chaotic. Her body language is very zombie-like but then she will randomly burst into a violent scream. Her face is packed on with white makeup and lipstick far beyond her lip line. When I saw that geisha scene in Baraka (1992) I think of her. But now I think, how did she get to the state she is in now? 

    In the movie, that scene was apart of culture, not a woman going insane. But if she were to be in downtown San Francisco acting like that people would assume she was on some kind of drug. It makes me think of how ignorant people are of others cultures. Although it's safe to assume this woman lurking through the Tenderloin isn't in her right state of mind, I think about conversations I've listened to about going to school with students from unfamiliar cultures and people are judging them for misunderstanding a situation. We are all so eager to judge people for the most minor thing but if people accept their shortcomings they would see that being around different cultures enriches us and there is so much to gain from that. 


Molly Markestein